"An Insignificant Number": Mighty No. 9 Review
Keiji Inafune has had a rough time keeping people on his side since his departure from Capcom in 2010 after the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe. His efforts since forming his own company, Compect, have been mostly mediocre and have even included some strange cameos in the Hyper Dimension Neptunia games.
This odd period eventually culminated with Inafune's company launching a Kickstarter featuring a spiritual successor to his most favorite creation, Mega Man. This new game would feature many of the elements that made Mega Man a platforming icon and combine it with elements of modern gaming. The Kickstarter became an instant success, and Mighty No. 9 quickly shattered records and became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history. However, this achievement would turn out to be a double-edged sword, as the game would find itself the subject of scrutiny. After several delays, the game would finally arrive, and backers and fans alike would wait with baited breath to see if the game could deliver on the promises of its creators.
Mighty No. 9 follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, with the story picking up just as the robots designed by Cherry Dynamics are affected by something that has caused them to become berserk. In addition to Cherry Dyn's robots, acclaimed roboticist William Right has also had his series of robots, the Mighty Numbers, with the exception of Mighty No. 9, Beck. Since Beck is immune to whatever is causing the other robots to become berserk, he sets out to help his fellow Mighty Numbers and stop their rampage through the city.
The plot is hardly original, and copies the plot points as the older Mega Man titles almost beat for beat. The biggest difference between the Mighty Numbers and their counterparts, the Robot Masters, is that each of the Mighty Numbers has a distinct personality. During your run through of each stage, the Mighty Numbers will taunt you and even attack you as you make your way through the stage. After defeating one of the Numbers, Beck will receive the ability of the defeated robot, but unlike in the Mega Man series, Beck doesn't destroy the other Mighty Numbers. This allows each of the Mighty Numbers to appear in another stage; this will also help you to learn that boss' weakness.
While the story isn't going to win any awards, these types of games were never known for their story. Mighty No. 9's story serves its purpose and doesn't overstay it's welcome. The added personality of each of the Mighty Numbers helps the story along and differentiate the title from the Mega Man series.
If you're familiar with the style of the Mega Man X titles, then you should know what you're getting into with Mighty No. 9. However, looks can be deceiving, and there is far more depth to the gamef than what can be conveyed in a simple screen shot. While the game is clearly focused around the standard running, shooting, jumping, and sliding like in the Mega Man X series, Mighty No. 9 adds a new level up depth by adding a new mechanic which allows Beck to absorb weakened robots. This mechanic allows you to gain a temporary boost based on the color that they glow when they become weakened. Enemies that glow red will slightly increase your damage and give your shots a piercing effect, allowing you to hit enemies through walls or to hit multiple enemies at once. The green power up increases Beck's walking speed, while yellow temporarily decreases damaged taken.
These new mechanics are helpful in differentiating the game from Inafune's work on the Mega Man series, however, at its core, the game still shares much of its DNA with the Blue Bomber. However, just because the two series share a similar makeup doesn't mean the two are cut from the same cloth. This is evident in Mighty No. 9's level design. The earlier Mega Man games were challenging, but most deaths in the previous games would feel like they were caused by human error. Mighty No. 9 on the other hand, seems like some level designs were made to force you into death to memorize the level design through trial and error. This can make the game far more frustrating than it needs to be. These baffling decisions cause the game feel almost archaic by design, but on the flip side to this, levels can be memorized making the game ideal for speed running. Memorization doesn't just come into play with the level design either, as the game's boss fights against the Mighty Numbers are all about pattern memorization. In fact, some of the bosses can be defeated almost effortlessly once you can figure out their patterns. In this regard, the game does manage to keep one thing in line with the Mega Man series, as patients was a big part of learning how to defeat the bosses in those games too.
When the Kickstarter was originally launched, users were graced with a single piece of concept art that initially set the bar pretty high for what backers were expecting out of the game's presentation. Couple this with Comcept advertising Manami Matsumae, the composer for the original Mega Man, as the game's composer despite her only writing a handful of songs. These two factors would have gone a long way to help the game win over its backers, but sadly that wouldn't be the case.
I don't want anyone to get me wrong; I'm not a graphics guy by any stretch, but when you see that first concept piece and then see what we received it's night and day. Much of Mighty No. 9 looks like a pre-HD game, somewhere in the neighborhood or a late generation PlayStation 2 game. I find this to be inexcusable unless the point of the visual style was to have more of a retro feel. I don't think this was the case, and I feel this was a huge missed opportunity with Mighty No. 9.
Moving over to the audio side of things, we see something that I wasn't expecting when you look at the legacy of Mega Man's sound. Most gamers that grew up with the Mega Man franchise knows about its catchy music, which is why Mighty No. 9's soundtrack is such a letdown. The first thing you'll notice is how quiet the music is, making it tough to hear the music over the game's sound effects and voice over. Even when the music can be heard, it's very bland and hardly memorable. In fact, the only time I found myself enjoying the music when I switched to the chiptune style songs. However, even when you're listening to the songs in the retro style, the songs simply aren't memorable. Not to say that all of the songs are bad, it's just that there's more bad than good here.
Finally, the sound effects fit the game well, but this brings us to the final point of contention, the voice acting. The voice over is pretty cheesy, which makes me wonder if this wasn't intentional. Many of the people involved with the voice over in this game have had much more accomplished roles in the past. It's hard to say without having taken part in the production, but this is one aspect that I do believe what done on purpose. The audio package as a whole is mostly disappointing, but thankfully this doesn't render the game unplayable.
Mighty No. 9's launch left a sour taste in the mouths of many gamers, especially those who chose to back the project. Looking at Mighty No. 9 objectively it's easy to see that the biggest strike against it is its nostalgia factor for Inafune's earlier works. While the game certainly isn't up to the standards of the NES-era Mega Man titles, which I believe is what people backing the game were looking for, the game is easily on par with the PlayStation era Mega Man X games. If you're looking for an action platformer in the same vein as Mega Man and with the difficulty of 8 and 16-bit generations, then you've come to the right place. However, I can admit that Mighty No. 9 isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't for those who are easily frustrated. Level design can feel cheap, and you can expect to die a lot. A weak presentation package doesn't help matters, but it hardly makes the game unplayable. At the end of the day, there's plenty to enjoy in Mighty No. 9. The game features a bit of a learning curve, but with the patience and dedication, Mighty No. 9 offers up a solid challenge for old school action platforming fans. There's plenty of bang for your buck in this package, but if you're one to give into frustration than I would't bother with this one. Someday Mighty No. 9 will likely become a hidden gem on these platforms, but for now it finds itself lost in the sea of titles that have been released in 2016.